Stay tuned to Nick's Pick throughout the tournament for insight and daily predictions!
Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) vs. Ivo Karlovic (CRO)
Hewitt comes into the tournament ranked #50 in the world, but he did win a title on clay in Houston last month. He is a two-time quarterfinalist, but hasn't been past the fourth round since 2006. He hasn't played a whole lot on clay this year, but he definitely knows how to win on this surface.
Karlovic comes in ranked #28 in the world and has a record of 11-11 on the year. He played Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid and in each tournament he fell in the second round. He did, however, have some success in Belgrade, reaching the semis. His best result at Roland Garros came last year when he reached the second round before losing in five sets to Jonas Bjorkman.
Karlovic is 3-0 against Hewitt, but they have never faced on clay. This is a tough match for Karlovic because of how solid Hewitt is from the baseline. He has excellent groundstrokes, moves well, has an excellent return of serve and his serve is improved. For Karlovic to win this match he is going to have to have an unbelievable serving day because the clay is really going to do a number on slowing down his serve. Every time a rally begins, Karlovic is going to slice the backhand which will give Hewitt time to set up and hit his shots. I can see Karlovic winning this match if Hewitt is feeling good physically, but I have to give the edge to Hewitt because of how solid his game is.
Nick's Pick - Hewitt in 4 sets
Andy Murray (GBR) vs. Juan Ignacio Chela (ARG)
For the first time in his career, Murray is seeded third at a Grand Slam and with that comes lots of high expectations. He has never had great success at Roland Garros, but then again this is only his third go-around at the tournament. Murray can challenge for the title, he just needs to get comfortable on the clay very quickly!
Chela is a former quarterfinalist at Roland Garros, but comes into the tournament ranked #205 in the world. He has only played in 17 ATP pro level matches this year, but he is always a threat on clay.
Murray is 3-1 against Chela, but the two haven't played since 2007. Chela knows the clay well and has had success on it in the past. He has the ability to make Murray work hard for every point, but I don't know if he can beat the Scott. Murray is having his best year on the tour, and is now a legit threat to win every tournament he enters. He can play offensively, defensively, he moves extremely well, he has excellent groundstrokes, and he can play on any surface. He has gotten stronger physically and seems to be ready for the challenge. I can see Chela taking a set off of Murray, but not winning the match. Look for Murray to advance.
Nick's Pick - Murray in 4 sets
Tommy Haas (GER) vs. Andrei Pavel (ROU)
Haas has been recovering from an injury and has only played in 17 ATP matches this year. He reached the quarters in Houston and then lost in the second round in Madrid to Andy Roddick. Roland Garros hasn't been kind to Tommy, but I think he has the game to play here and I wouldn't be surprised to see him pull off a couple of upsets.
Pavel is a 35-year old veteran who reached the quarterfinals of the French Open back in 2002. He comes into the tournament ranked #1124 in the world, but was once ranked as high as #13. He has sat out much of 2009 with a back injury, but don't count him out on clay if he is healthy.
Haas is 7-4 against Pavel, and 3-2 on clay. They actually faced in the fourth round of the 2002 French Open with Pavel winning in three sets. That was a long time ago and a lot has changed since that. Neither of these men are spring chickens, but I would say that Tommy has more left in the tank than Pavel at this point. Pavel is an extremely fierce competitor, but Tommy has too much game for him at this point in his career. Haas has an excellent slice, fantastic one-handed backhand, is comfy coming forward and has a big forehand. This will be a fun match to watch, and I give the edge to Haas.
Nick's Pick - Haas in 4 sets
Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Alberto Martin (ESP)
Federer is coming off of a great win over Rafael Nadal in the finals of Madrid and is more determined than ever to win this tournament and complete the career Grand Slam. We all know the history of Federer at the French Open, but what happened in the past is over and there is no reason to dwell on it. Federer has the game to win this title, but what will happen if he faces Nadal in the finals again?
Martin is a former top 40 player who is currently ranked #97 in the world. His best results have come on clay, as he has won three titles on the surface in his career. In fact, he has reached 11 singles and doubles finals in his career and they all have come on clay! This is one guy who I would definitely call a clay-court specialist!
Federer is 1-0 against Martin with that win coming at Monte Carlo on clay back in 2006. It will be interesting to see how Federer approaches this match coming off of that win over Nadal. He has said that beating Nadal in Madrid is one thing, but beating Nadal at Roland Garros is a completely different animal. Martin will definitely challenge Federer, but I don't see Fed losing this match. He has too much firepower and is too determined to lose early on in this tournament!
Nick's Pick - Federer in 3 sets